Consultation meeting with Irula community to operationalise Access and Benefit Sharing Provisions on Snake Venom Extraction and Trade held in Chennai

01 Aug, 2018

The Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board (TNBB), Chennai along with the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), Chennai and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, New Delhi held a consultation meeting on 1 August 2018 at Dr. Cleghorn Conference Hall, Panagal Maligai, Chennai. The meeting brought together representatives from the Irula Snake Catcher’s Industrial Co-operative Society (Irula Society) and senior officials of the Forest Department, TNBB and NBA. Ms. Shameeka Rao, interning with the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Partnership Project had collated data on the sale of venom from various records for a study to operationalise ABS.

Representatives of the Irula Society

The Irula Society, functioning since 1978, is the largest organised supplier of snake venom in the country. The Irula Society maintains a venom extraction centre and partially processes the venom for storage and transport. Membership into the Irula Society is subject to various criteria and the members receive an annual bonus in terms of health insurance, housing benefits, etc. They currently have over 300 members and work in 3 districts of Tamil Nadu – Kancheepuram, Chennai and Thiruvallur.

Mr. Udhayan IFS, Secretary, TNBB presented the meeting agenda and Mr. Rabikumar IFS, Secretary, NBA highlighted the importance of the study for the implementation of ABS provisions on biological resources obtained from animals sources. Mr. R.K. Upadhyay IFS, PCCF (HoFF), Tamil Nadu Forest Department lauded the efforts of Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board for initiating implementation of ABS in the state. Mr. T. P. Raghunath IFS, PCCF & Chief Wildlife Warden, explained the role of the Forest Department as one of the regulators of the trade alongside the Department of Industries and Commerce. They provide licences to the snake-catchers, restrictions on the number of snakes that can be captured, and permits for the sale of snake venom from the Irula Society. Dr. Konrad Uebelhör, Director, Indo-German Biodiversity Programme emphasised the need for recognising the local communities in three districts as protectors of the habitats beyond the role of the Irula Society who are directly involved in the trade of snake venom.

Participants of the meeting in discussion

The salient features of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and implications of the ABS provisions on their trade were explained to the members of Irula Society. The need for stakeholder-specific materials in Tamil language was highlighted to ensure easy understanding of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and related Rules and Guidelines.

Follow-up meetings with various stakeholders, specifically with the Irula Society and the companies/entities that procure venom for commercial use and/or research are to be conducted. Further work will be taken up to identify aspects of the trade that could affect conservation of the snakes and their habitats.

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